Cyber-attacks on supply chains are on the rise. While they aren’t new, there is a clear and alarming trend where third-party software and service providers are quickly becoming the preferred target of attackers. And it’s simple to see why, given the domino effect that supply chains can create, and threat actors only need to locate a single weak link in an otherwise complex and vulnerable system.
Furthermore, fraudulent and counterfeit hardware and software are becoming increasingly difficult to detect, with many end users not even contemplating the risks of purchasing from a third-party vendor. Many assume that if a seller is legitimate, their reputation, reliability, and trustworthiness extend to their products as well. This isn’t always the case, however.
According to a recent report from the European Union Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA) – “Threat Landscape for Supply Chain Attacks”, roughly 62 percent of the examined attacks on customers took advantage of their supplier’s trust. This emphasizes the importance of validating third-party code and software to ensure it has not been manipulated or tampered with.
To make matters more difficult, many of the existing supply chain security procedures, such as visual inspection, are mostly subjective and rely on human intervention. These are all extremely time-consuming and costly to adopt on a large scale, but many firms lack the skills, resources, and knowledge to implement more effective and sophisticated methods.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will completely remove the danger of third-party service breaches. These occurrences, however, highlight the importance of good security hygiene, sound IT policies and verifying the integrity of software supply chains as crucial first lines of Defense in maintaining an organization’s integrity and security.
Security must not be sacrificed in the name of speed and convenience
The discovery and ensuing consequences of these recent security breaches highlight the necessity of fundamental IT security standards, which are all too often overlooked in favour of speed and convenience.
Any company that uses third-party software should not take its convenience and security claims at face value. Users must pay great attention to the security of the services they use, evaluating the vendor’s security practices as well as the specifics of any deployment for potential vulnerabilities. Users must keep a look out for bugs and suspicious activities, and ensure that access permissions to these services are only granted when and where they are required.
Third-party suppliers and integrations are, in the end, extensions of the organization’s technological portfolio, and security should be highlighted and addressed just as much as internal systems and software.
Container security is essential
Container security has never been more critical as businesses continue to migrate to the cloud.
Secrets management is an important aspect of IT security, and many of these credentials are frequently used by containerized apps to authenticate with other services, such as storage systems or databases in the modern software stack. Organizations must make container security a primary focus, including how certificates, credentials, and other secrets are handled during the build process. The necessity of container security will only rise as container images become a more attractive target for attackers.
For third parties, ‘trust but verify’ is a good rule of thumb
There is a level of trust involved whenever a third-party dependency or component is used by a company. Every supply chain has a three-layer ‘trust chain’: vendor is concerned about security, the software or system isn’t malicious, and they know how to adequately safeguard the solution they’re offering.
While trust is certainly easier when businesses know and have a long-standing connection with a third-party, privilege is rare, making a “trust but verify” strategy essential. Before integrating a third-party service, businesses should do their homework to ensure that the suppliers’ security requirements are up to grade, so they don’t put themselves at unnecessary risk.
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